We all wish we had more hours in the day; that’s pretty much universal. After all, time is a finite resource and once it’s gone it never comes back again. How can you make sure you’re making the most of the 6,720 waking minutes you get a week? Time tracking! That’s right, tracking your time is an invaluable tool to help you maximize your productivity and help you craft the ideal life for yourself.
Time tracking isn’t a new phenomenon. But have you ever tried it for yourself? Looking at how, when and where you devote time and energy can give you an objective view of your days and a baseline from which to make positive adjustments.
Choose Your Time Buckets
Designate different categories―or buckets―for tasks you perform throughout the day. For example, they may have headers like Client Meetings, Administrative, Professional Development, Fun, Relationships, Distractions and so on. Aim to have no more than ten different time buckets. This will help to give you a strong and easy-to-digest data format to work from while you are tracking your time. Also, be sure to record how exactly you are spending your time within those buckets. It helps to know that the specific thing you were doing in the Relationships time bucket last week was making dinner with your partner.
Envision Your Ideal Schedule
Next plot out how much time you would ideally like to devote to each of your categories by percentage. If career growth is a big goal of yours, you may want to devote a larger percentage of your time each week to your professional development time bucket than you currently are. If you are looking to increase your sales number, maybe you add a bit more to your client meetings time bucket. Remember, this schedule should represent what you want your life to look like, not how your time is currently spent. Turn this data into a spread sheet so it can be transformed into a pie chart. (It’s helps to have visual aids when time tracking!)
Track that Time
There’s no one right way to track time. Rather, you need to find an approach that works for you. You can simply jot your records down in a pocket notebook, or you can use a high-tech solution like the app Toggl. It really depends on what your personal preference is. You also need to decide when you are going to track your time. Some people find it easiest to check in every hour or 15 minutes. Some prefer to log the exact time they start a task and then when they switch to another task. Again, find what works for you. The most important thing is to make tracking your time a habit, so find an approach you feel you can stick with. Remember to be honest with yourself. Your data is only as good as it is thorough. Track you time for at least two weeks to a month. This will help account for any normal day-to-day fluctuations.Many people who track their time find that doing so makes them more accountable for their actions. Click To Tweet
After you finish the time tracking period you decided on at the start, it’s time to dig into all that important data you unearthed. You can also make a pie graph out of this data to compare against your ideal. What you find may be surprising. Everyone is different, but there are some common time tracking insights that you may see in your own life. They include:
- Multi-tasking Myth The multi-tasking myth has been well established. We can’t actually do more than one thing at once. Well-meaning attempts at multi-tasking can sometimes mean that no single task ever gets your full attention. By focusing on one task at a time, we can usually work more efficiently.
- Hidden Time Though multi-tasking has been largely debunked, there are ways to double up your time. If you have down time in your commute that doesn’t require focus, you can use that time to listen to an audio book and thereby fill two time buckets.
- Accountability Many people who track their time find that doing so makes them more accountable for their actions. It’s easy to notice, once you start writing it down, that you spend an hour scrolling through social media sites every evening before bed. Once you start to come to these sorts of realizations, it can help you become more mindful of how you spend your time.
- Golden Hours You may very well find that there are hours of the day when you are generally more productive or―conversely―more prone to distraction. Knowing when you’re at your peak during your golden hours is useful when you plan out your schedule for the day.
Placing your time tracking data side-by-side with what you envision as your ideal time management structure will give you a solid understanding of how you spend the limited amount of time that you have each week. This baseline knowledge is helpful in moving yourself in a positive direction and achieving your life goals.
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